Tag Archives: book reviews

Book Reviews :: Montessori Sensorial :: Systems

In my AMS-certified Montessori training, I learned that the very young child begins his Sensorial work by concentrating on the “systems” shelf. The work on these shelves are sorted into three prominent systems (sorting, matching and grading). All of these systems are found throughout the different tenets of the classroom shelves, but show up prominently in the Sensorial area of the classroom.

The Button Box

The Button Box

In presenting book reviews of Sensorial topics, I realized that I had jumped right into colors without really discussing the primary Sensorial work of a very young child – sorting. This work would occur at the same time as the beginning work in colors, or for a very young child (2.5 – 3 years-old), this might be one of the first places that they are brought to within the classroom.

Ages 4 and up
Reid, Margarette S. The Button Box. Illustrated by Sarah Chamberlain. Dutton Children’s Books: New York, 1990.
When visiting his grandmother, a young boy gets to play with her special box of buttons. He enjoys swirling them around and sorting them by color, size, material and purpose. Although this book is not a primer on how to sort, the boy displays a number of ways that he sorts some of the buttons he finds in the box.  The text is short, but concise a,nd introduces a number of unusual buttons (i.e. shoe buttons from long ago) which should start a great discussion at circle time. Extensions could lead to a discussion of other places that the children have seen buttons or sorting exercises. In addition, this book might make a good transition for those children who are ready to learn how to sew a button, as it includes a brief history of how the use of buttons has evolved over the years.

Although I didn’t have a chance to review it, the book Sorting at the Market by Tracey Steffora seems to fit a reality-based criteria and it might just help your child notice new things at the supermarket!

The Button Box

The Button Box

Marzollo, Jean. I-SPY: A School Bus. Photographs by Walter Wick. Scholastic, Inc.: New York, 2003.
The I-Spy books are quite well-known and delight users of all ages. I can still remember clambering for the current Where’s Waldo book as an elementary and middle school student. Although, Walter Wick and Jean Marzollo’s traditional I-Spy books contain a riddle to be deciphered, Scholastic has produced a simpler version which is just perfect for helping a young, pre-reading child to match in an abstract way. Be sure to begin with physical matching and then move on to matching with pictures. Once object to object matching has been practiced, use this book in a small group or snuggle up with a wiggly preschooler and refine your visual discrimination skills.

Look for the "easy readers" for a young child.

Look for the “easy readers” for a young child.

Children can "match" the pictures from the left to the right. I've also seen this type of work in the Language section of a Montessori classroom.

Children can “match” the pictures from the left to the right. I’ve also seen this type of work in the Language section of a Montessori classroom.

Ages 4 and up
Dillon, Jana. Sasha’s Matrioshka Dolls. Ills. by Deborah Nouse Lattimore. Farrar, Straus and Giroux : New York, 2003.

This lengthy tale features Sasha, an upper elementary-aged girl who lives and work with her grandfather, Boxer. He carves wooden boxes and Sasha paints them. As this is a story of peasants in late nineteenth century Russia, Sasha is not in school and the family is poor. This tale tells the story of how the Russian nesting dolls came to be. It all started because Sasha’s one and only toy (a straw doll) was ripped apart by mice. Her grandfather wanted to make her a replacement and carved her a wooden doll, whom Sasha named Matrioshka, little mother. But, it was too small and the mice carried it away into their den, so Boxer rescued it and decided to build another one to “protect” the little doll. And, the story continues until there are seven dolls and everyone in the neighborhood wants to buy one. A great way to introduce these dolls and the Russian culture. An author’s background note is included.


Raising a Wild Child

A few weeks ago I was browsing the new book shelf at my local library (my favorite shelf, btw) and I came across the book, How to Raise a Wild Child. It’s written by Dr. Scott the Paleontologist (from Dinosaur Train). But, that’s not why I picked it up…I was quite intrigued by the title and while I think my boys are wild enough, I’m always interested in reading about how to help them become their own people while still respecting their surroundings. In fact, as I was checking it out, one of our local librarians commented that I could probably write the book…I’m not sure if that was a compliment or a criticism!

Our blooming Scarlet Hibiscus, a native Florida plant.

Our Scarlet Hibiscus, a native Florida plant which finally bloomed a few days ago!

As a big fan of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, I found a kindred spirit in Sampson’s book. His purpose is to foster a love of the outdoors within our children…and ourselves. Since it’s been almost nine years since I’ve read Louv’s book, I was happy to get a refresher – especially since we aren’t nearly as outdoors-oriented as I would like us to be.

Yet, as I was reading the book, I realized that we are doing many of the things that Sampson recommends. Since it’s blazing hot here right now, we aren’t “out” all that much, but we do a lot of observing. Last year, as part of my youngest son’s project, we planted a butterfly garden in our front yard, which is quite accessible from our large, air-conditioned front window. The kids will often sit – if only for a few minutes – and watch what’s going on outside. We have a family of bunnies that like to venture out in the morning and the hummingbirds are quite attracted to some of our nectar plants as well. Unwittingly, we had created a “sit place,” just like he mentions in the book.

Adding a butterfly garden - August 2014

Adding a butterfly garden – August 2014

We are also gardeners and compost our food waste, but I would like for us to have a better understanding of how connected we are to the the outside world. And, so this is the area that I am choosing to work on from the recommendations in this book. There are so many fabulous ideas and suggestions that you could become overwhelmed before even starting. So, I’m choosing one (especially since I’m not quite ready to allow them to explore the woods on their own).

I want to increase the attention that we pay to our “sit place.” Sampson recommends that we ask lots of questions and help our children to put themselves in the place of an animal that we observe. This is the one tiny step that I will implement in our home…inviting my children to sit with me and observe together. I will be asking more questions as to why the birds make so much noise in the morning and wondering why we’ve seen so many more snakes in our yard lately. Wish me luck!




Montessori :: Sensorial Materials and Books

Word Map of Montessori Sensorial Materials

Word Map of Montessori Sensorial Materials

In my AMS Montessori Primary training, we were introduced to the classroom materials in the same way as a new student of three. We began with the Practical Life section of the classroom and moved on to the Sensorial section. As with many aspects of my life, I believe that books should play a key role in a child’s life. Not only does it encourage reading, but it can often reinforce a concept. As a Montessori teacher, I was looking for reality-based picture books that I could read to my class that would reinforce the concepts they were absorbing. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the time to find and review a large number of subject-specific books. My students were read to often, but it would have been nice to have a guide for specific topics. This is my attempt to remedy that problem. You can find the overview of Practical Life book reviews here.

Next week, I plan to tackle the large subject of visual learning. We’ll start with color.